In addition to medical benefits,
assisting with daily activities and working with us, animals can help us
emotionally, psychologically, and socially. They help us:
Adjust to serious illness and death
Children often turn to
their pet for comfort if a friend or family member dies or leaves the
family. Grieving adults who did not have a close source
of human support were also found to have less
depression if they had a pet.
Be less anxious and feel more safe
Pet owners tend to feel less afraid
of being a victim of crime when walking with a dog or having a dog in the
Relax and reduce everyday
Pets can help us
relax and focus our attention away from our problems and worries. We do
not even need physical contact to appreciate this. Watching fish in an
aquarium, or the activity of birds can be very soothing. Of course many of
us with dogs and cats find ourselves absent-mindedly petting them, which
is relaxing for both us and the pet.
Have physical contact
This ability to have something to
touch and pet is very important. More and more studies show how important
touch is to our physical and emotional health.
Lift our mood
decrease our feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing
companionship to all generations. Certainly for residents of nursing homes
this is true, but it is also true for the staff and volunteers there as
Residents of nursing homes are more
apt to smile, talk, reach out to people and objects, be attentive and
alert, and experience a greater sense of well-being and less depression if
animals are present in the facility.
Feel less lonely
Pets can help ease the sense of
loneliness or isolation we feel.
Have something to care for
Everyone needs to feel needed and
have something to care for. Many elderly citizens or people living alone
will tell you their pet gives them a reason for living.
Having a pet can help us remain more
active. We may not only get more exercise from walking a dog, but we also
increase our activity through feeding, grooming, and otherwise caring for
Pets provide some consistency to our
lives. Caring for a pet can significantly affect our routine and gives us
something to do and look forward to each day. People may come and go, but
our pets are pretty much with us day in and day out.
Have more and better social interactions
surveyed before and after they acquired a pet reported feeling happier
after adding a pet to the family.
A study in a Veteran's Hospital
showed that the residents had more verbal interactions with each other
when a dog was present in the room than when there was no dog present.
Dogs were also shown to increase socialization among persons with
Alzheimer's disease in a Special Care Unit of a nursing home.
Residents in long-term care
facilities were more likely to attend activity sessions when an animal was
going to be present.
Pets can greatly influence how we
feel about ourselves and life in general. They are teachers and healers of
© 2004 Drs.
Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
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